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Derby 4 Bolton Wanderers 0 - The big match verdict

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Another emphatic defeat, another round of the blame game.

Relegation might not be mathematically confirmed but it stares you back in the face everywhere you look at Wanderers. Players, manager, even a club begging to be put out of its misery, you might say.

It is human nature to try and find reason for such failure, a culprit at whom a finger can be pointed. But when assessing this gargantuan mess, pinning it down to just one person is practically impossible. This has been a season of disaster on a massive scale.

Derby’s dominance was underlined by Frank Lampard’s post-match claim that he was only disappointed his side had not scored “seven or eight”.

Mason Mount claimed a hat-trick and was virtually unplayable, likewise Martyn Waghorn, whereas Wanderers’ shirts were virtually empty vessels once their initial resolve was broken eight minutes before half time by Craig Bryson.

It seems difficult to believe that Bolton had beaten Derby back in September, a stage in the season when a mid-table finish was being optimistically mooted.

Since then, a seemingly never-ending stream of negativity. All involved with Wanderers have been ground down to the extent that Saturday’s humbling at the iPro Stadium barely registers on the shame scale.

So who to blame? Who to blame?

Clearly, the ongoing financial issues have cast a shadow over every corner of the club. Not a person at the University of Bolton Stadium does not long for the day when new ownership is confirmed and routine rights like monthly salaries are no longer a cause of stress.

The lack of quality communication between Ken Anderson, his advisor Paul Aldridge, players, coaches and staff during this process has been so poor, it is barely believable. Of course, as owner of the club, Anderson shoulders considerable responsibility for the car crash this has become.

Off-the-field problems have had an impact on results, but they do not completely excuse them. Phil Parkinson and his players have under-performed too.

A lack of flexibility, both tactically and in team selection, has ensured that sympathy among most supporters has long since dried up. Like a captain left in charge of the sinking ship there has been nowhere for Parkinson to go.

There have been few calls for his head – most supporters have reserved their anger for the owner – but even fewer expect the current managerial structure to continue into next season, whatever shape the club is in.

Players like Erhun Oztumer, Josh Vela and Mark Little appear to be woefully under-used, and though the hard truth is that there probably isn’t a combination of players in this current squad who would have avoided relegation, it might have been easier to watch.

Goals have been a problem from the off, and particularly since Adam Le Fondre was given licence to pursue his career abroad, or Christian Doidge's move from Forest Green imploded spectacularly. A team which creates so few opportunities needs to be more clinical and though there is no shortage of effort up front, there is no cutting edge whatsoever.

Defensively, Wanderers are game. They have fierce competitors like David Wheater and Andy Taylor who let no-one down and dig in for the cause – but against a side like Derby in this kind of mood they are found wanting.

Whereas last season’s midfield had the wiles of Darren Pratley and Karl Henry, two players coming to the end of their effectiveness in the Championship but with all the experience you’d want in a dogfight, this season’s crop has promise but lacks the necessary bite. Want evidence? Count the lost runners in any one of Mount’s three goals.

Luca Connell is undoubtedly a talent and has a creative touch that Bolton have lacked for a long time. To ask a 17-year-old to carry the burden of a team struggling this badly is too much, though, and he spent a lot of the afternoon chasing shadows.

The white flag of surrender did not go up for a good half-hour on Saturday. In fact, Clayton Donaldson had a decent chance to open the scoring with a diving header from Taylor’s cross.

When Derby quickened the pace, it was a different matter. Bryson opened the scoring with an angled drive as Harry Wilson appealed for a penalty and on the stroke of half time Mount combined with Waghorn for his first of the day.

Wanderers had worked hard but the body language as players slumped back down the tunnel said it all. The result was no longer in question.

Mount headed a second when Tom Lawrence’s cross sat up nicely eight yards out and then claimed the match-ball as he latched on to Ashley Cole’s pass.

Remi Matthews did his best to keep the score down, making one remarkable double-save from Lawrence and Richard Keogh. Those in front of him had no answer to the movement of Derby’s front three and were operating at half pace by the end.

Had Lampard's side shown a bit more ruthlessness, the scoreline could have been heavier, record territory, even.

There was sympathy from the 300 travelling fans for players who clapped half-heartedly in their direction at the final whistle. As the night continued, the blame game began again.

A 26th defeat of the season equals a club record set three years ago when Wanderers sleepwalked into League One for the first time in two decades. This time they are fully awake in a living nightmare.

This is only likely to end when the reset button is pressed. From top to bottom the club needs to start again - even more so than they did in 2016.

Fans have to learn to trust their club again, players need to have belief in the shirt, a manager needs to implement a footballing identity people appreciate and an owner needs to start paying the bills.

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